Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Tuesday that Israel was willing to help reconstruct the Gaza Strip in exchange for full demilitarization of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
Co-leader of the recently-formed New Right party, which touts itself as a joint secular-religious venture, Shaked spoke in English to an audience of Anglo-Israelis in a question-and-answer event at the Tel Aviv Port.
Asked about the New Right’s position on the ongoing conflict with Hamas, Shaked replied, “First of all, we have always said that we are ready to do reconstruction in return for disarmament, demilitarization.”
“But in reality, we just can’t do it,” she said, “because Hamas is a terror organization and they are not willing to do it.”
She also stated that Israel was “not prepared to reconstruct Gaza until they return our soldiers and citizens.”
Israelis Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed are currently being held by Hamas in Gaza, along with the bodies of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
“What we can do is just to weaken Hamas,” Shaked asserted. “There are a few ways to do it and the vast majority of the ways don’t necessarily involve sending troops to Gaza. Although we are a right-wing government, we don’t want soldiers to enter Gaza without a reason. There are some reasons to enter Gaza, but to weaken Hamas, we can also do it without boots on the ground.”
“I think that the next government will definitely have the challenge to weaken Hamas,” she added. “It is something that we can do.”
An audience member brought up the issue of the Israeli economy, which some forecasters believe may be headed toward a recession.
“Israel has a very strong economy actually,” Shaked replied, noting that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development had found it had a “very strong and stable economy.”
“I am counting on you,” she exhorted the crowd. “You came to Israel and you’re starting good startups in the ‘Startup Nation’ and that will grow our economy.”
“In general the forecast from the Treasury Ministry is not dark at all,” she went on to say, “and we definitely think that in the next four years, if the government is a responsible government and doesn’t waste money that we don’t have, definitely we believe that the Israeli economy will continue to be strong.”
Asked about Israel-Diaspora relations, Shaked stated, “Of course, I’m happy with every Jew that comes to Israel, that does aliyah, it makes me happy.”
“But I don’t want to patronize all the Jews around the world,” she continued. “And definitely American Jewry, for example, I think they are crucial to the existence of Israel. They are doing a lot of important things for Israel.”
“Definitely I’m happy with all the people who are coming and doing aliyah,” she said, “and I think that this is the home for the Jewish people, but if Jews want to live abroad I respect it.”
The Algemeiner (c) 2018 . Benjamin Kerstein